Cranford Zoning Board Continues Dunkin’ Hearing

By ALEXANDRA LEBOVITZ
Specially Written for The Leader/Times

CRANFORD — After an evening full of testimony and resident questions, members of the Cranford Board of Adjustment on Monday carried over an application for a drive-through Dunkin’ at the corner of South Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard to the board’s Monday, October 26 meeting.

The meeting was a continuation of the board’s August 10 hearing regarding the application from NATC Donuts Inc.

A revised plan for the application that incorporated the recommendations of the board, the public and the board’s consultants was presented at the hearing. Nicolas Varderese, who was accepted by the board as an expert in traffic engineering during the August 10 hearing, was recalled by Dunkin’ to explain the changes that were made to the plan and to provide the highlights of a supplemental traffic assessment he performed. Mr. Varderese said the revised plan relocated the driveway back to its existing position with the intent to keep the NJ Transit bus stop in its existing location. This addressed concerns about the sight line to the left of the driveway being blocked when a bus is stopped.

After reviewing the revised plan and the previous plan, Mr. Varderese suggested that the bus stop be relocated closer to the intersection, which would address the board’s concern about the sight line and keep the driveway further away from the intersection, which is the recommendation of the board’s consulting engineer. He voiced a preference for the original design presented to the board, which had the driveway located farthest from the intersection.

Mr. Varderese performed a pre- and post-development analysis of traffic and identified nominal change to any operation at the intersection with the addition of traffic from the project.

Concerns over the safety of drivers making a left turn out of the site’s driveway onto South Avenue were raised by both board members and Cranford residents. Resident Donna Baccich also voiced concerns over the Dunkin’ location affecting pedestrian safety at the intersection.

Connie Justice, lead for drive-through initiatives for Dunkin’, said the majority of cars going to the Dunkin’ will be making a right turn in and a right turn out because the business is not a destination point but “a matter of convenience.” Ms. Justice testified that Dunkin’ specifically looks to position its stores on sites that work with the traffic flow.

John McDonough was accepted by the board as an expert in the field of professional planning and landscape architecture. Mr. McDonough presented before and after images to the board and spoke to the site betterment under the application. He said the site, which is zoned for commercial use, currently is underperforming due to its lack of use and poor condition. He testified that the application would revitalize a dead site and would improve the location’s aesthetics.

Mr. McDonough also discussed the impact of a Dunkin’ location on the community. He said that “coffee shops, in general, are a land use that boosts economic and social activity.” He also said this use of the site would provide job opportunities, including for local youth looking for first-time jobs.

Mr. McDonough noted that drive-through services have gained currency in the last six months due to public health concerns resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The continuation of the hearing on Monday, October 26 will feature the testimony of Cranford’s experts.